Forget Dynasty Warriors or Ninety-Nine Nights. Those games have hundreds of on-screen enemies, but most of them look and behave in the same way. Contrary to their brain dead disposition, Dead Rising's flesh eaters have character. They're both menacing and comical in equal measure. You'll laugh when they fall down stairs or stagger around with a bucket on their heads. But you'll also underestimate them and end up as just another victim.
It's a big plus that there are enough different zombies to make the horde seem believable. That's not to say you won't see any repetition in the character models, but not so much that it ever becomes tiresome. Almost uniquely for a horror game, the living dead are more of an obstacle than a conventional enemy. It's impossible to kill them all, and they are just slow enough for you to run around them.
There's an awesome conflict between risk and reward. You're forced to make snap decisions whether it's safe to run through a crowd of zombies, or whether it's better to take them on. You'll encounter more dilemmas when escorting human survivors. One mistake here will lmost certainly put them at the top of the menu. Most of our disasters were the consequences of being greedy - stopping off for weapons when it would have been better just to escape.
The combat is brilliant though. It's straightforward no-nonsense action with just enough depth to make it challenging. Some weapons can be charged up by holding the attack button, wreaking havoc on all the nearby zombies. Aiming the ranged weapons is also very intuitive and it is possible to invert the controls in both directions. There are hundreds of weapons, but that wouldn't mean a thing if they all had the same effect. Dead Rising is superb in this respect. It's a real joy to discover what cruelty each new weapon is going to inflict.
The gore is gloriously OTT and really, really funny. Blood splatters all over the place as you chop off arms, legs and heads. It's slapstick horror comedy at its best, the kind of thing that made Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi famous. Our favourite moments include sticking traffic cones on their heads (genius!) or lobbing custard pies so they can't see where they're going. If you were expecting another Resident Evil forget it, you're going to be a Jill Sandwich. The humour is a curious mixture of Western satire and Japanese kinkiness. There's lesbianism, cross-dressing, gratuitous panty shots, torture and loads of absurd cutesiness. While this won't be to everyone's taste, it's refreshingly audacious. Dead Rising's structure is equally unique. You're given 72 hours to survive, which works out at just over 6 hours real-time. During that time, you can do absolutely anything you want. We spent a good while exploring the mall like a sandbox, before restarting and doing the story missions.
The main quest requires some ruthless efficiency as you're instructed to reach important locations by a certain time of day. You'll still be able to continue playing if you don't make it, but the ultimate ending will escape your grasp. The time limits are tight, and finishing the main quest is extra tough because you only get one save. If you save yourself into a corner, it's tough luck. This would be a major ball-breaker if it wasn't for two things. Firstly, you don't have to do the main quest and Dead Rising isn't even that long anyway. But more importantly, when you restart from the beginning, all your EXP points and levelled-up abilities carry over. So the next play through will be that much easier.
Dead Rising's RPG elements are more than a token gesture. When you start out, you have no physical attacks that can kill zombies. This means that if you're caught without a weapon, you're in big trouble. On the other hand, once you've reached level 30 you can execute loads of arm-ripping head-crushing attacks. You can even do wrestling moves! You'll also reap the benefits of being able to run faster, carry more items and sustain more damage.